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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2011

Monitoring changes in lichen resources for range management purposes in reindeer husbandry

Olofsson Anna, Danell Öje, Forslund Pär, Åhman Birgitta


Mat-forming lichens are important as food source for reindeer during the winter, and thus a vital resource to manage in reindeer husbandry. In this paper we suggest a method for monitoring of changes in lichen height with the purpose to early detect changes in lichen abundance in reindeer grazing areas. The method is intended for measuring geographically uniform lichen areas, evenly used for reindeer grazing. We analysed spatial variations in lichen height at the meter and 100 m scales, and calculated sample size requirements, and estimated effects of forest density and age, lichen moisture and lichen density on lichen height, and assessed the correspondence between lichen height and biomass. The variation in lichen height differed considerably between sites and, hence, the required sample size to detect a 5 mm change in lichen height with a power of 0.95 ranged from 200 to 2000, depending on the standard deviation of measured heights. Based on the autocorrelation in lichen height found between adjacent measurement points, a minimum distance of 4 m between measurement points is also recommended. Lichen height was significantly affected by lichen moisture, and the results suggest that this effect of moisture might vary with lichen density. Lichen height varied spatially within the study sites, and the spatial variations were partly caused by forest age and density. Thus, gradual changes in the forest characteristics are likely to alter the spatial variation in lichen height and it is therefore important to regularly re-evaluate the locations of measurement points within the monitored area. This study provides suggestions for a variable that could be used as an indicator of changes in the lichen resource, and aspects that should be considered when designing a monitoring program. The accuracy of detecting changes depends on the monitoring efforts, i.e. the number and distribution of measurement points and how often an area is monitored. In conclusion, our results indicate that measurements of lichen height have considerable potential for monitoring of changes in lichen resources within reindeer husbandry


Adaptive management; Cetraria; Cladonia; Indicator; Lichen height; Resource management; Rangifer

Published in

Ecological Indicators
2011, Volume: 11, number: 5, pages: 1149-1159